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Music: Inner Health Made Audible

by Brian Nixon

By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service

MairALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – July 13, 2015) — Music is marvelous, a gift from God, a pearl to ponder. Concerning music, Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” I couldn’t agree more.

Over the past three days, I’ve been reminded of music’s power and place in our world. On Friday, July 10, I was honored to attend the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque at the Civic Plaza in the heart of Albuquerque’s downtown.[1] With over 200 musicians performing, singing, and strutting their wonderful outfits, the evening was a showcase of musical excellence and enjoyment. Listening to mariachi, with its infectious groves, one can’t help but thank God for its form and function. The festival had a Christian aspect as well, with a special Mariachi Mass held at the San Jose Parish.

KlezmaticsOn Saturday, I was able to attend the kickoff for the New Mexico Jazz Festival in the Old Town Plaza.[2] Our family listened to the Grammy Award-winning group The Klezmatics, a band that specializes in Eastern-European Jewish music. To say the music was dance-worthy would be an understatement. With the opening notes on the accordion, violin, keyboard, clarinet, bass, and drums, many in the audience were out of their seats, holding hands and twirling in a circle. The Klezmatics were a contagious crew of musicians, conducting the audience as a composer would a score.

It was marvelous.

BattleDrumsWith Sunday came the start of new series by Pastor Skip Heitzig, “The War is Over.” Taking songs from the new album by Battledrums (Calvary Albuquerque’s worship team), Pastor Skip delivered the opening message, “The Light Has Come.”[3]

Pastor Skip told the congregation that “Christianity is a singing faith,” contrasting it with the song-less worldview of atheism. He reminded us that Jesus sang a hymn after the Passover meal (see Matthew 26:30), that the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Ephesians 5:19), and that the words singing, song, and sung are used over 200 times in the Bible. Skip then noted that, since the inception of the church, over 500,000 hymns have been written. When we sing, he noted, “God is not auditioning us in the present but conditioning us for the future.” C.S. Lewis put it this way: singing is “inner heath made audible.”[4]

The power of music, particularly the praises of the church, is a passionate response to a perfect God.

So, why is music important? Why do we make melody in our hearts and minds, from the simplest tune to the grandest symphony?

ScottAniolIn his new book, Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, Scott Aniol offers insight. Linking music, particularly worship music, to truth, Aniol paints a picture of music as a conduit of reality, a means to grasp the fullness of God’s creative acts in the world. Quoting from Calvin Johansson, Aniol writes, “We do not have truth and beauty, or truth decorated with beauty, or truth illustrated by the beautiful phrase, or truth in ‘beautiful setting.’ Truth and beauty are in the Scriptures, as indeed they must always be, an inseparable unity.”

Aniol goes on to examine music as “moral imagination,” a stunning way to think of the art form. Furthermore, he discusses the role of music as cultural engagement and group identity—something evident in each of the performances I saw this weekend, from mariachis to The Klezmatics to Battledrums, all insightful and helpful ways for us to understand music, providing perception into God’s great gift.

When you add the elements of music as conveying truth, moral imagination, and cultural engagement, the weight and importance of music takes on more girth and gravity than just fun tunes to hum in the shower (though it is that, as well). Music helps lead us to mental, spiritual, and possibly, physical heath; it can point us to authenticity of the divine, as conveyed through notes, instruments, sounds, and structure.

Music truly is marvelous.

C.S. Lewis, as usual, was onto something: music is, indeed, our “inner heath made audible.”

Photo captions: 1). Mariachi music at the Civic Plaza, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 2) The Klezmatics, New Mexico Jazz Festival. 3) Battle Drums Worship. 4) Worship in a Post-Christian Culture by Scott Aniol. 5) Brian Nixon.

[1] http://www.mariachispectacular.com/, accessed 07/12/15.

[2] http://www.outpostspace.org/pages/new-mexico-jazz-festival, accessed 07/12/15.

[3] http://www.rogershermansociety.org/prayer_of_praise.htm, accessed 07/12/15.

[4] http://www.rogershermansociety.org/prayer_of_praise.htm, accessed 07/12/15.

Brian NixonAbout the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). As a published author, editor, radio host, recording artist, and visual artist, Brian spends his free time with his three children and wife, painting, writing music, reading, and visiting art museums. To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.

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